“Wake up early every day so that while others are still dreaming, you can make your dreams come true.” This quote from Hal Elrod, despite having great intentions and a positive message, is flawed at best. Because the point isn’t to have an early morning routine, but rather a healthy morning routine.
And a person’s health is unique and forever evolving.
I, of course, learned this the hard way. I read The Miracle Morning and other books like it. I pushed and prodded myself through various morning rituals, waking early and hitting the streets for a morning run. And then, after that stopped working, would turn to affirmations and journals and whatever else.
I tried all the hacks, and the constant was to always wake up early.
As if having the audacity to sleep in beyond seven is some crime against humanity. For some, this is fine. There are people out there—although I’m personally not one of them—who awakes at the crack of dawn ready to leap into the day. Yet for every one of those, there’s another that struggles to crawl into the morning.
Others differ still, not dictated by time but rather by how long it takes to adjust to the new morning. Take me, for instance, and how I need at least an hour to come to terms with another day of being part of society.
Everything inside me rebels, wishing to crawl back under the covers.
Whereas my lovely and lively partner, Vee… well, when she is awake, she is AWAKE. It takes seconds. I cannot fathom it. But it is not for me to fathom. The point is we are different. That’s beautiful. Yet the productivity and self-improvement worlds don’t do a good job of celebrating this beauty.
Instead, they try and force everyone into a certain way of life.
Wake early and be productive.
Wake early, be productive, and do more by nine than most do all day!
Again, for some, this works. For many others, it doesn’t. And this is fine. You have to do you, my friend, and you have to embrace you for who you are.
healthy morning routine 101
I don’t remember a time when I found getting up in the morning easy. Yet I also have never been much of a night owl. So as I got older, I built a perception that I must somehow be lazy. If I was a night owl, I’d have an excuse for sleeping in.
But I wasn’t, and so I didn’t.
This preyed on me for a long time. I figured there was something wrong with me or that all I had to do was commit to waking up early and after a while, I’d adjust. Yet nothing I did worked. After a few weeks, I’d always slip back into bad habits.
Now, I say bad habits but that isn’t true. It’s just I perceived it that way because all the experts, books, and strategies told me to wake up early and not be lazy.
That all changed when I read the book Boundless by Ben Greenfield.
Not only did I learn more about circadian rhythms (more on those in a second) but he introduced me to chronotypes. What’s that? Here’s a snazzy definition from the Sleep Doctor himself, Dr. Michael Breus…
“A chronotype is your body’s natural disposition to be awake or asleep at certain times. Your chronotype is closely related to your body’s circadian rhythm, which controls your body’s sleep-wake cycle and melatonin production.”
But here’s the VERY important piece to this puzzle…
“Unlike our circadian rhythm, our specific chronotype isn’t influenced by any outside force, except for genetics.”
This means there are literal building blocks inside you that determine when you are at your best (and for how long). It’s been hardwired into you over millennia, based on your ancestors and the journey they took.
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Today, it’s suggested there are four chronotypes:
- The Dolphin — such people struggle to find a specific pattern as they’re so sensitive to sound and light.
- The Lion — such people are early risers, often struggling to stay up late and preferring to spend their evenings in bed.
- The Bear —the most common type (often productive before noon), their sleep cycles depend on the season.
- The Wolf — such people are not for the morning, preferring to focus on their work later in the day (possibly late into the night).
The above is hardwired into you, but it’s not like every wolf is the same or each bear acts like the other. Everyone differs and you may not fit into any one type—instead straddling or weaving in and out of a few.
Yet it gives you a guide to work from and better appreciate who you are and what you need — you can take a quiz to help figure out your type here.
Of course, Chronotypes aren’t all you need to consider.
Aspects like your Circadian Rhythm play a part, as do…
- The season/time of year
- Where in the world you are
- The chapter in life you currently experience (hey new parents!!)
- Your mental health and stress levels
- and more…
There’s a fascinating science behind all this and it’s something we’ve only scratched the surface of as a species. But sliding all that to one side, the point here is simple:
You are unique, as is your version of a healthy morning routine.
More so, what constitutes a healthy morning routine for you today will change in the future as you transition from one chapter of life to the next.
So although books like The Miracle Morning are helpful for some and offer an overall positive message, they can be stifling and even debilitating.
All you can do—indeed, all that matters—is to focus on yourself.
how to create a healthy morning routine
What follows is a guide and nothing more; a blueprint, if you will.
No template. No [fill in the blank] and all will be well. This is about you taking some time in the coming days/weeks to focus on you and your morning.
If you do, you’ll likely see positive results in a short period of time.
Not because there’s some miracle cure, but because you’re taking the time to ask the right questions… the ones you need right now.
Taking control of your early hours (whenever in the day these fall) is one of the most freeing and transformative things you can do because taking control of your morning routine empowers you to:
- Proactively begin your day rather than constantly playing catch-up
- Take some time to consider what you need to focus on
- Focus on you and the filling of your cup (mind, body & spirit)
- Be productive, whatever the hell that looks like to you
Every single one of us gets 1440 minutes each day. We all share that in common.
A healthy morning routine doesn’t give you more time but does help you better leverage it. Here’s how you can craft your version of a healthy morning routine.
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healthy morning routine step 1: assess your existing one
Before you can create something new, you first have to appreciate your current situation. Right now, you likely slip into certain habits and routines when you first awake—some of these are deep-rooted; something you’ve done from a young age.
So before you do anything else, spend the next 2-3 days making a note of everything you do in the first one-to-two hours after you wake up.
There is no right or wrong at this stage. Write it down in your journal, create a spreadsheet or bullet-pointed list… hell, use a scrap of paper if you like.
The point here is to note down everything you do and also highlight any patterns you see—for instance, maybe you do certain things in a certain order … shower → brush teeth → floss → dry hair … anything like that, make a note of it.
After you’ve done this for a few days and no doubt have a long list of things you weren’t even aware you did each day, reserve 30 minutes to reflect.
- What do you do that you like and want to double down on?
- What do you do that you don’t like and would like to eliminate?
- Do you see any ways you could be more productive or optimized?
This is your version of a healthy morning routine, remember, so there is no right or wrong. This is about you optimizing how you start your day.
healthy morning routine step 2: set a clear goal
Now you have a greater appreciation of your current situation—and have made notes on what you do and do not like about it—it’s time to get clear on what you want to achieve moving forward.
The point here isn’t to set specific goals per se, but rather to get clear on your overall objective. For instance, maybe you want to get up earlier because you have to be out of the house at a certain time each day.
Maybe you want to start running and doing so before the kids get up is the only logical time to do it.
Maybe you want to have more time to take your time in the morning; spending more of it reading, journaling, or meditating.
If the only reason you want to change your morning routine is that you’re led to believe you should, nothing you do will work—at least not for long.
You have to have a reason to do all this. So, what is it?
Get clear on that now and then think about what progress looks like. You don’t have to get too specific at this stage—that happens next. Instead, just think about why you’re doing all this and what you hope to get out of it.
healthy morning routine step 3: create a power hour
Now you know what you want and why, it’s time to dive deeper into the details.
A method I’ve found to work is to focus on the first hour of your day.
Growing up, I recall my father offering advice on the way to games of rugby and football. He’d tell me to “make the first tackle count!”
You’ve likely noticed this, too… that if you start well, you continue that way.
It all comes down to momentum. It’s hard to build, but once you have it’s easier to roll with. That’s the premise of creating your Power Hour to start your day.
How you approach your Power Hour and what goes into it is up to you.
But now you 1) have a clear idea of what you currently do, and 2) appreciate what you want to change and why … everything is much easier.
So what does a Power Hour look like?
There are two approaches you can take…
- Create a Routine
- Create a Grab-Bag
Personally, I prefer a routine. I find it easier to build habits this way. If I commit to doing something in the same order (/same time) I build momentum and keep it.
But this doesn’t work for others. Take my lovely partner Vee, as an example… she’s more spontaneous and likes to mix it up. For her, a Grab-Bag is a better approach.
When you create a Grab-Bag you don’t commit to a set routine rather highlight a series of things you can turn to at any given time. You can throw anything into this: meditation, journaling, running, walking, having a bath, cold plunging… then, each morning, you start your Power Hour by asking:
What would I like to do to start my day today?
No routine. No ritual. Each day differs.
This works for some. It does not work for others. All that matters is you find a way that works for you; a method that empowers you to intentionally start your day in a way that allows you to stride toward that vision you set in step two.
To give you an example, here’s what my current Power Hour looks like…
- Wake up to my sunrise alarm clock (so I awake more naturally)
- Sit down to do a 5-10 minute breathing meditation (with the Oura app)
- Make coffee (doing some squats as I do and a mouth-pulling exercise)
- Have my morning supplements and drink lots of water
- Perform a short 10-15 minute workout (I usually focus on my core)
- Go for a short walk with Vee (or just chat if the weather’s not nice)
- Shower, get dressed, and plan my day…
This is my current version that will no doubt evolve as I transition from one chapter to the next—or as I learn new things and embrace new challenges.
All that matters is you make this all-important first-hour count.
Use it to fill your cup and fuel your mind + body + spirit.
If that involves some work, so be it. If it involves getting up at the crack of dawn, fine. Yet if it also involves doing nothing but giving yourself time to think, that too is okay. Your first hour is your opportunity to empose yourself on the day ahead.
Take advantage of it.
healthy morning routine step 4: get started!
This final step is the most important of all… just. get. started!
It doesn’t have to be perfect. You do not need all the answers. If you fail and wander off course, it’s fine. In fact, you will stumble from time to time. We all do.
Just prevent one day from becoming two; get back on the horse and recommit.
All any of us can ever do is take a step in the right direction.
Yes, get clear on your current situation.
YES, get clear on what you want to achieve (and why).
YESSSSSS, come up with a plan and craft your power hour.
Yet none of it means anything unless you get started and DO it!
Start small. I follow James Clear in this regard, and his advice to make incremental progress. If, for example, you want to incorporate exercise into your Power Hour, start day one with five press-ups.
On day two, do six … then seven on day three, and so on.
Once you reach thirty press-ups, add five situps to your routine and build that up one at a time. You can apply this to almost anything…
Cold showers: start with three seconds and add an extra one each day.
Wake early: set your alarm to go off one minute earlier each morning.
Meditation: start with a minute and add an extra five seconds each time.
Start small and build progress from there. So long as you START, that’s all that matters. Be kind to yourself. Beyond this, yourself regular points to check in and review your new healthy morning routine.
Review what’s working… what isn’t… what you find hard…where you are finding the biggest gains. Iterate your Power Hour and tweak your goals accordingly.
Once more… this entire journey is unique.
a few final thoughts…
If there’s one thing I hope you take away from this article, it’s the notion that some perfect morning routine exists is NOT true.
Please, stop trying to force yourself into a certain method that will not serve you.
All that matters is you find your version of a healthy morning routine.
I hope the steps above help. It all starts by getting clearer on your current situation. Once you do, it’s much easier to hone in on what you actually want.
So over the next few days, make a note of how you start your day. Write down everything you do and highlight any habits or patterns you spot.
(you can complement this by researching your Chronotypes and Circadian Rhythm … and even by using a tool like an Oura ring to track your sleep patterns)
From there, follow the other steps and keep making strides. It’s a journey that will continue for as long as you do because you will keep evolving and transitioning through different seasons of life. Don’t fight this. Embrace it.
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